The Not-So-Secular Humanism of Viktor Frankl

Like his fellow Viennese Jews Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler, Viktor Frankl was a pioneer in the field of psychiatry, distinguishing himself particularly with his work in suicide prevention. But he is best known for his Holocaust memoir—first published in German in 1946 as A Psychologist Survives the Concentration Camp, and later in English as Man’s Search for Meaning. Samuel Kronen investigates Frankl’s philosophy, and its fundamental hypothesis: only a sense of purpose that transcends the self can make life worth living and suffering tolerable:

In Yes to Life, Frankl takes us through the counterarguments to the proposition that life has intrinsic value, going through all the ways that life could be stripped of sense—incurable or terminal illness, mental illness, disability, loss, imprisonment, sterility—to make a case for the inherent sanctity of life. No amount of anguish or adversity can truly take away our humanity, he says. Being human precedes our capacity to be productive, functional, or even mentally sound.

Frankl tells many stories of seemingly hopeless situations in which a person was ultimately able to transcend his circumstances—not by changing them but by changing his attitude toward them.

Frankl’s contentions with modern culture were twofold: the nihilism of the modern age, in which nothing means anything, so you might as well do whatever; and the reductionism that removes will from the equation so that it doesn’t matter what you do, anyway. His solution to both was to forge a culture of meaning based on the margin of freedom and responsibility available to us. Meaning does not simply appear; it must be forged. It is ultimately self-generating, and we are self-determining creatures.

Frankl’s relationship with faith was more complicated. He came in for criticism from theologians by remaining publicly agnostic, positing a form of humanism that can be either religious or nonreligious. It wasn’t discovered until after his death that he prayed several times a day and regularly attended synagogue. He would have been the first to say that religious people are predisposed to finding deeper truths under difficult circumstances.

Read more at City Journal

More about: Austrian Jewry, Holocaust, Humanism, Psychology, Religion

Israel’s Retaliation against the Houthis Sends a Message to the U.S., and to Its Arab Allies

The drone that struck a Tel Aviv high-rise on Thursday night is believed to have traveled over 2,000 kilometers, flying from Yemen over Egypt and then above the Mediterranean before veering eastward toward the Israeli coast. Since October, the Houthis have launched over 200 drones at Israel. Nor is this the first attempt to strike Tel Aviv, only the first successful one. Noah Rothman observes that the Houthis’ persistent attacks on Israel and on international shipping are largely the result of the U.S.-led coalition’s anemic response:

Had the Biden administration taken a more proactive and vigorous approach to neutralizing the Houthis’ capabilities, Israel would not be obliged to expand to Yemen the theater of operations in the war Hamas inaugurated on October 7. The prospects of a regional war grow larger by the day, not because Israel cannot “take the win,” as President Biden reportedly told Benjamin Netanyahu following a full-scale direct Iranian attack on the Jewish state, but because hostile foreign actors are killing its citizens. Jerusalem is obliged to defend them and the sovereignty of Israel’s borders.

Biden’s hesitancy was fueled by his apprehension over the prospect of a “wider war” in the Middle East. But his hesitancy is what is going to give him the war he so cravenly sought to avoid.

In this context, the nature of the Israeli response is significant: rather than follow the American strategy of striking isolated weapons depots and the like, IDF jets struck the port city of Hodeida—the sort of major target the U.S. has shied away from. The mission was likely the furthest-ever carried out by the Israel Air Force, hitting a site 200 kilometers further from Israel than Tehran. Yoel Guzansky and Ilan Zalayat comment:

The message that Israel sent was intended to reach the moderate Arab countries, the West, and especially the United States. . . . The message to the coalition countries is that “the containment” had failed and the Houthis must be hit harder. The Hodeida port is the lifeline of the Houthi economy and continued damage to it will make it extremely difficult for this economy, which is also facing significant American sanctions.

Read more at National Review

More about: Houthis, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy